Vegas man brings test firm to Darien and ‘Shark Tank’
By the time national viewers see Shaan Patel pitch his test prep company on “Shark Tank” Friday night, his business 2400Expert will already have been on a two-year upward trajectory.
While professing that he is not yet a millionaire, Patel recently opened a new office in Darien that is one of 20 that launched nationwide since 2011. Five years ago, he was a college senior teaching a course premised on the idea students could apply the same strategies he developed as a teenager to boost their SAT scores.
“When people look at me as a straight A student, a genius, or really smart I’ve never seen myself that way,” said Patel, 26. “I was an average student who worked very hard…”
Patel has been studying at the Yale University School of Management on how to expand the business, taking a break from medical school at the University of Southern California to earn his masters in business administration. Last April he attended an audition for “Shark Tank” in New York City, waiting nine hours with hundreds of other entrepreneurs to give a 60-second pitch to a casting director.
“I worked for seven or eight hours on that pitch,” Patel said.
After being called back for a second round of auditions, Patel was asked to produce a five- to 10-minute pitch video for producers to review. Patel turned to his Yale classmates for input, he said.
“The video audition is pretty important and the most important thing I would say about it is you have to be entertaining,” Patel said. “I tried to be really energetic and even make some jokes. I’m an introverted person who spent hundreds of hours studying for the SAT so it was helpful getting the input of my classmates.”
Patel’s entrepreneurial dream got a kick-start five years ago as a result of his failure to sell a book proposal as a student at University of Southern California preparing to enter medical school.
Patel received dozens of rejections from publishers for a proposed how-to book named “SAT: 2400 in Seven Steps,” as publishers told him his own success was not enough to support a claim he could help others ace the test.
“I always wanted to write an SAT prep book and I sent it to 100 literary agencies and publishers,” he said. “They said, ‘you don’t have a platform, and the SAT prep market is too competitive.”
That summer Patel invested $900 to start 2400Expert, teaching an SAT prep course in Las Vegas and advertising it as the only program taught by someone with a perfect score, he said.
“I taught some six-week courses and it was supposed to be a summer thing but the first class had an average improvement of 376 points in their scores,” Patel said.
A native of Las Vegas, Patel resolved as a 15-year-old high school sophomore to boost the 1,760 he received on his first practice SAT at the end of that year.
Patel spent his childhood at the Sky Ranch Motel, a 26-room hotel his parents owned and operated. During his junior year, Patel spent hundreds of hours at the public library working to analyze the SAT in hopes of improving his score.
His parents no longer live at the hotel, but still own it, Patel said.
“There weren’t a lot of people in that area who had very much and there were a lot of police, prostitutes and drug dealers,” he said. “My father has a real immigrant’s story of coming to the U.S. in the 1980s and instead of buying a house he bought a motel to generate some revenue.”
Patel took care not to violate the show’s confidentiality agreement in advance of the show airing, but said he was impressed with the business acumen of investors on the show such as Dallas Mavericks’ owner Mark Cuban and FUBU clothing founder Daymond John.
“It was actually incredible how quickly they could figure out my business, my core competencies, and revenue model,” he said. “They are not stupid and are successful for very real reasons.”
Patel will appear on “Shark Tank” at 9 p.m. on ABC on Friday, Jan. 29. For more information about his company, visit 2400expert.com or call 1-877-345-7737. The company’s Darien office is at 30 Old Kings Highway South.